Friday 17 June 2011


A blobby day, too much physical exercise has tired me out. Rest does not seem to help - even lying down feels like an effort.

And so re-read Milan Kundera's Slowness (Faber and Faber, 1996) in a good translation (from the French) by Linda Asher. The original La Lenteur was published in '96. I'd bought it because of its title as well as because of Kundera, because I'd just finished a brilliant book translated from German, The Discovery of Slowness (2004) by S. Nadolny, translated from German by R. Freedman from Die Entdeckung der Langsamheit (1999), which is the biography of John Franklin, an exceptional man, who suffered from a slowness in his ability to process incoming stimuli, and developed a profound understanding of many things nevertheless. He became Governor of Tasmania (19th century).

I once asked a clever psychologist whether speed (of response to the questions of a test) and intelligence were always linked, and he was surprised and said of course; indeed, the Wechsler Intelligence test - commonly known as the IQ test - rates people partly on the speed of their responses. This book shows how that might lead to an erroneous assessment.

To return to Kundera's book. It is three-quarters good: the ending is disappointing, almost trite. Most of it is witty and very well written, often describing a superficial intellectual discussion between men, with a commentary on what is happening underneath, who wins and who loses and by what process - which may not always be of interest to a less competitive person. But some of the ideas are fun to play with: the connection between memory and speed - the faster we go, the less we remember of our experience. A central story shows and discusses how a slow movement of the characters from one place to another enhances the memory of the events; Kundera contrasts slow and fast - one person dives into a pool, aware only of himself, another is shown - approvingly - as entering the water cautiously, slowly, gracefully - more aware.

The letter to the publisher regarding the translation was posted today.

My writing is bogged down, though little sparks appear every now and then, which may illuminate the way forward. Started chapter 2 of what I call Writing Walter. A temporary title.

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